REVIEW: The Cauldron – A Magical Evening

Megan Amato learns how to mix magical cocktails at The Cauldron pub chain’s Edinburgh branch.

EDINBURGH is not short of magical- and witchy-themed shops and enchantments, but The Cauldron on Fredrick Street has always stood out more than the others as it appeals to the local crowd – not just the streams of tourists.

The Cauldron is nestled underground in a dimly-lit bar decorated with cobwebs, fairy lights, draping, old books, and fantastical paraphernalia. My guest and I immediately felt entangled in the witchy atmosphere, ready to brew up all sort of magical potions as we were led to an enclave filled with books, plants, and on-theme brick-a-brac. On the table, several bottles were lined up, ready for us to use along with a box, magical wand, and a cauldron.

Our potions teacher for the evening was an appropriate mix of spooky and camp, delivering drawn out instructions about the use of the wand and tools on the table before leading us to a wall of mythical beasts for our welcome drink. Three drinks were on offer – “The Basilisk Pale Ale”, “Master Stoorworm roseberry & gin cocktail”, and a “Pink Mead Lion-Lamb lychee mocktail” – all dispensed from the mouth or tail of the beast.

I am always drawn to anything with lychee in it and I appreciated that there was a mocktail on offer for those tee-total or others like me who can only handle two or three drinks. My guest opted for the Master Stoorworm gin cocktail poured directly from a dragon’s mouth and was not disapointed by its fruity flavour.

After ten minutes of sipping and setlling in, our exuberant potions teacher returned and had us begin our lessons. We were given laminated instructions along with a direct lesson. While I did struggle to hear her over the “Scottish reel” music piping out of the speakers and switched seats with my guests the second time she returned, the written instructions were clear and interactive enough that it was ideal just to have her for questions.

The Cauldron in Edinburgh

The first concoction was the “Transfigeration Toni”, consiting of essense of lavender and mysterious bottle titled “Butterfly Wings Serum”, along with a vial of gin, which you could opt out of. We were given a misxing glass, measuring cup, stirrer, and strainer with our vials and got to work mixing our potions, stiring clockwise and counterclockwise as instructed before waving our wands to ask for ice and “Manticore Venom”, which tranfigured our drink from a light lavender to a rich violet.

The drink itself was a lot sublter in alcohol and floral notes than I expected – a plus for my guest, who isn’t a huge lavender fan – and was very easy to drink.

The Cauldron in Edinburgh

The second potion was both my guest’s and my favourite – both for the flavour and how interactive it was. Titled “Lost Thyme”, this cocktail involved grinding up spice in a mortar and pestle and mixing it in a cauldron with an “enchanted solution” that we had to wave our wands to ask for before finally adding the “bladderwort nectar”. After it was succinctly mixed, we waved our wand again for the potions master to bring “Dark Materials! Fairy Dust” (dry ice) and stirred until the smoke dissipated.

Megan Amato Megan Amato

The Cauldron in Edinburgh

Afterwards, we were directed to ladle the concoction and two drops of “dragon’s tears” into a glass jar – not the cauldron – filled with ice, rum, and lemon juice and told to shake “enthusiastically” before distilling and straining into our highball glasses. We could smell the freshly-ground spice as we poured and were anticipating the flavour already – and we were not disappointed. It was a beautiful drink, balancing the citrus and spice and mysterious “dragon’s tears” perfectly. We enjoyed it so much that we tried to ladle every drop we could out of the cauldron.

Afterwards, we were generously – or alarmingly, depending on who’s asking – treated to a “Bubbling Shot of Death” that was both fun to look at and to drink.

The Cauldron in Edinburgh

Overall, our experience at The Cauldron – from the magical elements to the atmosphere to staff interaction – was magical. I will definitely go back for drinks and look forward to trying the “Wizard Afternoon Tea” next time.

Catch up with more news and reviews on Scottish Field’s food and drink pages, in association with Cask & Still magazine.